Sunday, August 2, 2015

Thinking Outside The Box

In the last post, I shared an image I received online from a friend and brother which I thought offered a brilliant image and idea, although it only expressed the barest essence of that idea. That idea was that Freemasons need a wake up call.
Freemasons do need a wake up call. All of us. As I see it, while I find much more to commend Liberal or alternate Freemasonry to the UGLE derived variety, I can see many of the same institutional problems in both Continental and Insular Freemasonry, although admittedly the descendants of Insular Freemasonry in the United States tend to be less friendly toward their brethren in other branches of the fraternity than the Continental Masons are.

While I realize other Masons' mileage may vary, my view is as follows. We Masons do need a wake up call. We are the inheritors - all of us - of a wonderful tradition. It in essence, whatever its ultimate origins, and however it came to us, is a set of instructions for self improvement. By following these instructions, which as we all know, are delivered through symbols and rituals, we can indeed make ourselves better. 

Somewhere along the way, however, almost all of Freemasonry has lost its way. Certainly, we still have access to those teachings, and now and again, one or another of us, endeavor with varying success to apply them to our own lives. We do it however, rather fitfully. We have as a group become sidetracked by uniforms, and the self same rituals, and worst of all, by the chimeras of power and division. 

We seek the power of offices and we have made our fraternity safe and comfortable and alas, largely unchallenging. We have allowed our institutions to become servants to politics, both originally of empire and state, and ultimately of a less purposeful and self deluding politics of the lodge and grand lodge. The distortions of our histories which helped justify these efforts have become gospel to us, and we use them to keep a wedge between our own form of Masonry and those of other obediences. 

So we become obsessed by the minutia of our traditions. We study and research, and from time to time we go forth and do battle with other groups, which today means mostly throwing insults at perceived enemies online, convinced that the "other" Mason is all the horrible things we have claimed of him, or worse yet, her.

And we hope that the great numbers of the past will return. We assume if we pitch the same lines often enough, but maybe update the graphics, that a new generation will become enamored of what we have. We have invested a lot in our Masonry. We have studied its forms, we have become fond of it. And yet, we cannot see the writing on the wall; we are essentially not being honest with ourselves. Freemasonry is slowly fading like an old ghost.

Now, I happen to find Freemasonry as diverting, as stimulating, as worthy of study, and as beneficial as the next Mason, so saying these things is not an attempt to disparage the fraternity.  The issue is we need to think outside the box. It is perhaps no accident that the forms of word lodge in other languages may be translated by several words into English. Those words include house, store, and box.

We need to think outside the box.

In essence, we need to think beyond the lodge; the Masonic lodge, our lodge, any lodge.

To those responsible for getting the message out, for education in their lodges,  to those who represent our current version of advertising - Masonic books and blogs, since like politics, and religion, we like to pretend that we don't discuss such matters, we need to explore other ways of sharing the essential message of Freemasonry, of why it called us and of how it has benefitted us.

But however we seek to reach out, we have to turn away from the tried and true approaches and be more creative. Here's the wake up call - We have fallen asleep. The truth we have to wake up to is this: The Freemasonry of years gone by has gone. Tomorrow's Freemasonry, if there is any, will be different. And all of them will share the same secret, because if we are doing things right, the mystery of Freemasonry is constantly reborn, in a distinct, but perhaps familiar form for each generation.

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